• best friend (lyrics hint)

    i know i refuse to explain my lyrics. but this is more a necessary disclaimer.

    just in case the lyrics “best friend” become a song (hey, there are so many lyrics at this point that it is, actually, questionable)….

    i want to be very, very, very clear.
    i want there to be no doubt.

    these lyrics were absolutely not written about johnny.
    not. about. johnny.

    johnny is a protagonist, a good guy, a hero in this story.
    none of us are perfect, but you can bet your soul that this little ditty was not written about him.

    that concludes this little disclaimer. we’ll see if i can’t pull out something meatier, maybe with pictures, for the next one. and soon!

  • where is my mind?

    i thought it was probably time i did an update on what’s going on with the band and some of my current topics of thought about music and moving ahead. you can keep up with some of this by following varnish on myspace or facebook, and i’ll post much more frequently to the twitter if we get more followers.

    for those who missed it, the big announcement this week was that we’ve found a new drummer. whilst i’m truly sad to have lost ben to academia, i think we’ve found someone cool in aNdi pUzL. it felt right having her behind the drums, so let’s hope my feelings are on target. i really hated trying to work without a drummer. sure, we can set down beats with a machine. but that doesn’t have the same energy or presence. i had never taken ben for granted, but my appreciation of him only increased over the six or so months i beat my head against the drummer hunt. i know you can do rock with a drum machine, but i feel pretty safe in saying i’m always going to want a warm body behind that kit. so, welcome, aNdi. you won’t be taken for granted here.

    and, for all of you, this means that there should be shows again soon. i know that aNdi is working to learn all our songs and to come up with drums for a couple that hadn’t been nailed down yet. now we just need to hope we can get everyone else’s schedules back in synch. i have really missed playing with my boys. (hmz…now that there’s aNdi, i guess it’s not just my boys anymore, is it? that will take some adjusting. but she is kind of half boy, so maybe she’ll forgive my habit of thinking of the rest the band as my boys…)

    the other thing that you might be wondering about is the cd. some complications and changes in people’s lives slowed down the process. i just feel really lucky that we got the drums all down before ben moved. so, in case you haven’t heard it elsewhere:

    • this will be a five-song ep, titled “each to each.” anyone recognise that reference?
    • all of the tracks have been recorded, partly at the famous london bridge studio and part at the soon-to-be-famous soul kitchen studio.
    • mixing is done. (if you’re anywhere near seattle, i recommend mark clem of soul kitchen studio without reservation. part of why i’m eager to move on to the next recording is to work with him again.)
    • we have an appointment set with the engineer we want to use (ed brooks of rfi)
    • i’m still sorting out the cd booklet/art and distribution. unfortunately, loss of my day job has slowed that down. but i’ll work it out

    i was hoping we’d have the cd ready for you in the fall, but life conspired against us. however, we did decide to post the tracks for your listening pleasure on our myspace or facebook. i hope you’ll agree that this has been worth the time, money, and effort. if we get a miracle in the next week or so, i’ll see if we can’t make it available for sale in some way by Christmas.

    which nicely segues into my next topic, which is what i’ve been thinking about as concerns moving ahead with music. i’ve actually been reading quite a bit lately about how social media is helping musicians move ahead and pay bills without having a record company.

    i won’t lie; i want music to pay my bills. i’m not going to compromise my artistic vision to do it. i’m not going to make music i don’t believe in or let my music be used to promote something i don’t like. so, for me, that means i won’t be selling out. but, just like you, i have to pay the bills. and trying to fit in a day job and music on top? yeah, i’m going to do that as long as i have to, but it’s basically like working a couple jobs. and, like you, i’d rather not have to do that. so that means that i do keep an eye on ways to let my music pay bills.

    someone once asked whether my goal was to make music i loved that touched people or to make money and be known. and i responded, “can’t i have both?” it won’t have been a waste if i only get the first, but i wouldn’t mind giving up the corporate rat race and being able to give all those hours to music instead. to know that the money i pay the mortgage with came from doing something i love and believe in.

    so, how to do that…

    the old model, of course, is that we work like crazy, hope a record company finds us and gives us a contract, and then spend our lives playing that game. in case you don’t know how that game goes, you get money from the record company. you use that money to record, set up the tour, whatever….and then you don’t tend to see any more money until you’ve made that amount via sales and such. basically, you’re living on a loan. and i hate being in debt. (which isn’t to say i wouldn’t go this route. i’ve just not got the rosy perspective on it i did as a kid.)

    but new models are emerging. there are quite a few of them, and most of them take advantage of this lovely internet we’re all using. your fans follow you on myspace, facebook, twitter, your blog. they buy your music online, whether as downloads or ordering a physical cd. maybe they subscribe to some plan where you send them a song a month. you connect with your fans in a more personal way, until you get so huge it can’t be done, via the conversations you can have on all those online spaces. and you hope your fans then use email or chat programs or whatever to send links to their friends who might like you. and the love grows. i even think that (and i know some of you will blast me for this) people downloading for free can help. granted, at this point, i’d love to see a little money for every song of mine you have a copy of. my spreadsheet of band expenses versus band income still shows that i have spent thousands more than i’ve earned. but i do know that there are bands i’ve decided to love and follow because i got sent an mp3 by a friend who thought i’d dig them.

    so, we’ve got good songs up. we’re making more good songs. i’m pondering how to get that music into more ears. how to create a relationship and community with all of you that is mutually beneficial and, hopefully, includes me paying some bills. because, honestly, if i can pay bills with music, i don’t have to do a day job. which means i have more time to make music. which means i can make more music available to you. i’m not just trying to sell you on this; i’m sincere. i say this as a huge music lover. i honestly can’t imagine having survived certain things in my life without music. if someone hadn’t made sure that bands i loved were paying the bills and making music, so that their songs could get to me? yeah, i really, truly might not be alive now. and i’d say that thinking my music could do that is vain, except that i have emails and messages where a few people have, in fact, told me how one or the other of our songs has gotten them through things.

    and really, there’s a lot of music to be made. at the time i write this, i have lyrics for 125 songs. all written in the last 35 months since i started writing again. (have i talked about why the writing stopped? basically, i was on birth control pills for a while. and one of the things that got put into a coma–i always say killed, but it clearly didn’t die–was my creativity. horrible. i look at notebooks from that time…well, the notebook. i went from writing like mad to eking out only one or two things over the course of years. ugh.) so, yes, loads of songs to be made. i fear i’ll never have the chance to let all the good lyrics, much less the mediocre ones, become songs you can hear. varnish are working as fast as we can, but we only have so much time.

    which means i have also been looking into side projects (so far, all single song things, not second bands). it’s a bit mad, really, because that’s just adding one more thing to my schedule. the options i have are moving ahead far too slowly because of that. complicated by the fact that most my current options are in other countries. fortunately, technology will help us work around that a bit. i’ve got one song done with a lovely mate, and i really just dig that we could do it all online and on our computers. that’s going to have to do until i can afford to build a recording space in this house (or afford more hours in the studio) and get people to fly out here. though i am also looking at local options. i have one idea that will involve working with different people for each song, and that includes some local victims.

    i mentioned community in terms of artist and fans. but i’ve also, as i look at side projects, been thinking of artistic community. those of you who follow me other places online have probably noticed that i make note whenever johnny’s main band, post adolescence, are playing a show. that’s one perk of treating other musicians and artists as community. yeah, johnny is my best friend, so that’s a bit different. but i think if we get to know each other and if we support and promote each other, we all win. i think it also opens opportunities to try out side projects. to expand our repertoire. to meet other sorts of artists and learn the other artistic talents of the musicians we know. i’m not just about community with other musicians, by the way. i really think we are all improved by exposure to other kinds of art. and, at least from my perspective as a musician, i’m going to need to have other sorts of artists to take pictures, design covers and merchandise, and so forth if i’m going to do all i want.

    i tend to be a solo sort of person. i love my alone time. i don’t need lots of social interaction to be happy. varnish have made good music without community. and there’s a part of me that loves that sort of path in a theoretical way. but now i’m looking around and pondering…i know lots of talented people. musicians, writers, jewellery makers, painters, digital artists, dancers, and so forth. i’d love to see us lift each other. see how we can inspire each other. (i have a song i wrote after discussing a piece of jewellery with my talented friend birna, for example. so i never know where i’m going to find words.)

    so, there’s the update on where the band is and where my head is. i’d love to have you join us places online. i’d love to hear your thoughts on community, either with fans or other artists, and other things i’ve brought up here. i’d love to know what you think of the songs. love love love.

  • truth in music

    a quick one. a small thought or two. though i’m also mentally composing a longer post on the state of the band and such (good things).

    i’ve been thinking about music as a vehicle for truths we can’t tell.

    anyone who knows me can tell you that, in general, i will say what i think. i’ll try to be tactful and polite. but i am blunt and can be honest to a fault. if you have food in your teeth, i’m going to tell you. i won’t accost you on the street, but if you’re my friend, i’ll let you know that the trousers you’re wearing aren’t doing you any favours. if i am attracted to you or have feelings for you, i’m going to tell you. probably. i don’t hide my opinions or tastes in order to ease social situations or make it easier to be my friend. i won’t be pushy or mean, but i like what i like and believe what i believe.

    that said…

    every now and again, i run across situations where i can’t speak the things i see as truth. i can’t point out a problem, because it would only lead to more problems and drama instead of resolutions. i don’t confess a feeling because, sometimes, i think it would do more harm than good. i pass through some sort of intense unpleasant emotion and i hesitate to reach out to my friends (sometimes even to my very best friend) because it’s just so heavy and i am just waiting for it to pass. and sometimes i don’t think people would believe me, so i can’t see wasting my breath and dealing with the frustration of being doubted over things good or ill. it’s very, very rare. and i hate it when it happens. but sometimes even i just don’t say things.

    and that’s when i feel amazing gratitude that i write. i pour things into songs. i cram the hurt and the sorrow, or the love and the hope, into lyrics. i have even written a straight up love song. (i swear, i tried to put something negative into it, because i couldn’t believe what i was doing. but it felt wrong. so, yeah, love song. and i rather like it a lot, thanks.) it doesn’t solve anything, really. the people hurting me are still hurting me. the moods still hit me. reality is still likely unbelievable. the love doesn’t go away or magically get requited. but i have told my truth.

    and if there’s anything i believe in, it’s truth. and that the truth will out. and that truth ought to be known, not hidden.

    someday, the hurts will pass away. they always do. and hopefully the compassion and love will stay (and maybe even be returned). and then i’ll still have lyrics, and maybe that’s the most good these truths can do me sometimes…

    stay true, lovelies.
    it’s not worth it to put more lies, deceit, and their ilk into the world.

    ps because i like posts with pictures, here i am on halloween. maybe you can’t see it, but i’m a moonage daydream if you’re old school or a scifi lullaby if you’re middle school. or just another spacegirl if you’re too new school to care about what came before. (i’ll try to sort out more on-topic pictures from now on….)

  • manic monday

    it’s 13 october. yes, it has taken me three weeks to finally post, and it’s likely to be less than what i intended because i am feeling a bit silly over what a fangirl i am. so i’ll start with a picture. (i ought to have more of those anyway.)

    monday, 21 september, 2009: this is johnny (my bff, bassist for varnish, and frontman for the amazing post adolescence) and me meeting nicky wire, the bassist (who said we had to be quick with the picture, as he didn’t have all his makeup on). yeah, we’re both failing to look cool as we meet one of our idols.

    amber and johnny with nicky wire of manic street preachers

    after years of not getting to see them, the best friend ever (that’s johnny) and i got to see the manic street preachers live. finally! (other folks were also there with us, but they were either just along for the ride or they are folks who just like manics as opposed to being, say, johnny and amber the squealing giddy fantards.) i’d say we both classify this as a huge life event. the manics have been, for both of us, important personally and musically. someday, you can ask him how this applies to him. for now, i’m going to talk about me. as usual.

    originally, this post was a placeholder so that i couldn’t forget to write a real post. included in that original post were the following:

    for now, however, i am going to try to keep my unusually-excited little self from bouncing off the planet before the show. and, can i say: eeeeeeeeeeee!

    ps i love the manics. could ya tell?

    pps will get to this post. i will. but got in late and too giddy to sit still.

    i’m not usually a giggling fangirl about anyone or anything. so you know the band is huge to me when even just getting a picture in front of their tour bus (i didn’t know i was going to get to meet one of the boys) had me grinning as widely as i’ve ever grinned and being ever-so-spastic. you know they are huge to me when i throw caution to the wind and don’t protect my ears and sing and scream so much that i lose my voice. yeah, huge.

    so huge that i kept them as a sort of secret musical love from someone i loved after that someone had taken the piss about the other band i love as much. (though the love may have shifted so that it’s manics on top now, which makes me even happier i didn’t share them.) it felt like protecting them when i did it. which may sound silly to you, but if you’ve ever had music that kept you alive, maybe you understand.

    on a personal level, the manics were just what i needed from music. they weren’t all anger or all depression or all politics or all love songs (or, rather, unrequited love songs). they were a mix. even though i’ve always been told i had a way with words, they were writing things that i was having no luck saying. especially richey (poor, lost richey; how i miss him). and i can’t tell you the times when i used their lyrics as encouragement or to remind myself that people who felt like i was feeling could make it. (poor, lost richey…almost ruined that last part for me. but i’m too sad over him to be mad about that.)

    musically, they showed me that you could write about politics without sounding smug, fake, pretentious, or uselessly angry. they’re smart boys who wrote good rock songs, so i knew that you could bring in literary references and the like and not sound, again, smug or fake. not sound pretentious. still sound like a rock song. and, like many of my top bands/musicians, every song and every album didn’t sound the same. there was some variation. that really helped my belief that you ought to just write what’s in you, in terms of both lyrics and music, and not worry about whether you’re sticking to “your sound.”

    i think one reason their songs continue to speak to me, even when things aren’t as broken in my life as they were (though they are definitely my answer when times feel unbearably hard) is that they talked about things that i think about every day. they talk about the state of the world, which is mainly not great. they talk a lot about honesty and deception. and since this world is so full of people who are not being themselves, either for fear of rejection or to try to get and keep love or to try to get power and money, that’s always relevant.

    plus, much like amanda palmer did last fall, they reminded me of the value of being good to your fans. it would not be unreasonable for them to try to keep contact with us raving loons short. before the show, i can see wanting space to keep from spending your energy. and if you haven’t got makeup on yet, definitely wouldn’t want to stop for photos. after the show, though there’s a definite high from performing, i could see wanting to get right back to the bus to ice down shoulders (we saw nicky doing that later) and just relax (because the high fades, and then you’re exhausted). instead, they stopped to talk before and after. as you can see, nicky let us take a picture when his makeup wasn’t done. and that made a night that would already have been awesome into a night that was bloody unbelievable. seriously. i was bouncing off the walls for days.

    i’m sure it will come back to bite me, but i hope i can have that sort of connection with fans. i know it’s harder, if not impossible, to safely do when you have huge crowds of fans. easier when it’s a mid-size or small venue. but if it’s manageable, i’m going to try to at least give a few minutes. to not take myself so seriously that i hide my face if it’s not fully made up (i hope the fans and press will be kind about that). to make sure that people who listen to my music know that i truly do appreciate them.

    now, i need to take care of a thing or two before i get to bed. next post will either be an update on varnish and other musical projects in my life or a post with my thoughts on what artists “owe” fans and good fan etiquette. we’ll see. until then, sleep well, love hard, and turn your pain into art.

    ps post title shameless stolen from johnny, whom i think is the funniest person there is. 🙂

  • ponder: rest

    i keep running across the concept of rest in different contexts. i’m not sure i have anything deep to say, but you’re all learning that i like to talk about it when things get thematic in my life. so i figure i’ll just start listing “rest” concepts and see where that takes us. oooo! a journey! very exciting!

    rest as sleep. the body has stopped. the mind hasn’t, but it’s not consciously grinding away. ideally, it’s a sort of rest we get regularly and it lets us start anew, refreshed. i am a big fan of this sort of rest.

    rest in peace. it’s something people say who don’t even believe in spirits. so i know part of it is just habit. it’s just something you say when people die. but i think even those who don’t believe in spirits really do hope that this ending has also brought an end to whatever pain or hurt the person had. for those who believe in an afterlife, i’m sure the intent varies. we hope the person who’s gone on has gone on to better. for some folks, they figure they’ve gone on to a sort of eternal lying about. to others, it’s more that they’ve left the cares of this life behind and gone on to a different set of things.

    give it a rest. it’s not quite the same as “shut up,” is it? because we don’t generally mean that the person ought to shut up in general, more that it’s time to stop on a particular topic.

    day of rest. in the Judeo-Christian traditions, even God took a day to stop working. that’s where the sabbath comes from. that said, surely God didn’t hole up and ignore everything that day. and those who keep a sabbath don’t just spend the whole day sitting on their bums or sleeping. at the very least, the one thing most have in common (since even within one church the ideas of what is appropriate can vary) is that adherents cease their normal labours and tasks.

    r&r (rest and recreation). most people see these two things as tied together. so that getting a good rest from work doesn’t have to mean doing nothing or just sleeping (though it can). and people can come back from active holidays feeling well-rested.

    naomi offers rest to ruth. for those who didn’t know, i guess this is the paragraph where you realise i’m religious. but all you religion haters can put your worries aside. no preaching here. just noting that, in the story of ruth, when naomi offers to find rest for ruth, she is talking about finding her a new husband. i just ran across this recently, and it definitely set me to pondering. you could say that the rest is from the worry that a woman then must have felt at being single and not taken care of. some of you might take a less historical perspective and just see it as a rest from the loneliness. those of you who have been in long-term relationships that you knew were going to last know there is a sort of rest that comes when you have someone that you know is going to stick around and love you and try to work through things with you. a change, in all these case, from the worries and loneliness, from the sort of work that life requires when single (even if you admit that being married is just a different kind of work).

    so, in writing this out, and thinking, i have a thought. rest isn’t a state of nothingness. it’s a change. it lets us, even for a moment, step out of whatever it is that is taking our energy (good and bad things). and, by taking that step outside, we gain the energy, perspective, or will to move ahead when we step back in. we think of rest as an inactive state, but i think it’s an active state. and i think we can’t achieve true rest just by doing the same nothing all the time. i know people who have sat around for days just watching tv. nothing else. at first, sure, it was relaxing. it was rest. but then it ceases to have the helpful effect. it was time to switch up activities. to find rest by giving tv a rest, if you will. i have known people who were getting plenty of sleep, but the worries in their lives left them feeling exhausted. i’ve been there. in that case, sleep isn’t the only rest needed, though you’d still hear me say “why am i so tired? i got plenty of sleep.”

    i have spent all day working hard on music, and it is work, and felt rested, whereas a few hours of “day job” can leave me wiped out.

    right now, i’m looking for rest. looking for the change that lets me keep pushing forward. looking for the rest that lets me step into new problems, and out of old. i’ve been trying to find it with sleep and meditation, with quiet. i’ve been invoking the phrase my friend susan gave me, that i’m not doing nothing; i’m being still. and that has, in some ways, lifted some of the trouble. it’s given me small pieces of rest. but i can see that the rest i want and need now is a more active state.

    so, i’m going to get back to seeing if there’s anything more i can do toward achieving that active state, that change. and maybe you can step aside from the rest of sitting here reading me and out into a more useful rest. heh.

    (note to self: stop ending on “heh.” that is not your catchphrase.)

  • ponder: breaking up broken down

    fair warning: this is long and i don’t feel like breaking it up (har har) into multiple posts.

    got breaking up on the brain. whilst i’m not planning to break up with anyone just now, i have friends at points all along both sides of the breaking up spectrum. on the one side, you’ve got everything from that intuition that a breakup is coming (sometimes right, sometimes not) to signs of relationship failure to dumped and trying to pull it together. on the other side, you have everything from wondering if you ought to consider a breakup to pondering how best to achieve a breakup to blissfully done and moving on. until you either learn your concerns are baseless or you recognise that you’re better without them, none of these are awesome places to be, even when they’re leading to good.

    a few years ago, there was a rash of bad breakups in my social circle. not just bad because hearts were bruised, but bad because of how it went down. sometimes it was the dumper being remarkably horrible and sometimes it was the dumpee clinging and crying in a way that didn’t change anyone’s mind, with a nice dose of breakups due to cheating to make it all feel extra icky. at that point, i made a mock quiz where one was meant to match the relationship scenario with the appropriate way to respond, whether as the dumper or the dumpee.

    the fact is, even if you’re the dumpee and you feel you don’t deserve it, everyone involved can contribute to whether or not it’s an extra craptastic situation. so i thought i’d sort of ramble on about a few points here, because that’s what i do. no doubt, some of this will come back to haunt me in future breakups. though i readily acknowledge i haven’t always been a stellar example, so no need to rub my past in my face. and, for the record, this is all about romantic relationships. ending friendships or business relationships or otherwise ending your association with someone other than a partner would each have its own set of “amber guidelines.”

    let’s start with reasons for breaking up. the thing is, relationships are sort of supposed to be consensual situations. unless you’ve gotten married, chances are really good that you didn’t commit to a certain amount of time with the other person. i think some things are clearly reasonable triggers for considering a breakup, like infidelity or abuse. some things are in a murky realm where you have to ask whether it’s just that you might want to put a little more work into saving something awesome or cut your losses and get out before there’s real damage done. and there’s that final group that sounds really silly when you say it out loud.

    if you’ve got abuse, i’m a huge proponent of Get Out Now. i’ve rarely seen an abuser (physical, mental, emotional, or sexual) actually conquer those behaviours. if you’ve got infidelity, that’s a grey area. in amber-land, if you’re an otherwise awesome partner and you made one mistake and are truly sorry and don’t do it again, we can talk about fixing the relationship. but the instant you embark on infidelity number two, or if you aren’t worth the effort to me to work it out, you’re gone. and, in case you’re jockeying to be my next someone, you ought to know that i include emotional infidelity, cybering, sexting, and phone sex on the list of things that count as cheating. i know; i’m no fun.

    in that murky set of reasons…well, it’s a case-by-case situation, isn’t it? for example, if you’re fighting all the time, is it a sign that it’s time to end or that it’s time to fix root issues and regain the happier days? seriously, i don’t even know for me. because it’s going to depend on the situation. i do know that relationships take a certain amount of work. i don’t believe that every relationship merits the same amount, though. which means we’ll find out when we get there. though, at this point, i’m not wont to get into any relationship unless i think it will merit some effort. and if i marry you, i’m up to the task, and i probably think the relationship is worth loads of effort. (other stuff that seems to fit in here is general stuff like indoor person vs outdoor person, adventure person vs tv/computer person, lots of alone time person vs minimal alone time person, purple vs green, liberal vs conservative, indoor cat vs outdoor cat, money use differences, getting on with each others’ friends and family, and…well, probably loads goes in here…) maybe you can sort out more of my mindset on this, if you’re sorting me out, by reading my previous ponder on fitting…

    that leaves the silly things. but what i actually want to say is that this stuff isn’t all so easily written off in my mind. sure, you have to ask whether their inability to close a cupboard after they get out a plate is enough to outweigh the goodness you have. and, sure, it’s hard to see clearly when they’re actually a good person (so much easier when they’re obviously just damaged goods). and, sure, that they’re fun to fool around with makes it even harder to see clearly. plus, you don’t want to be one of those shallow people or one of those people looking for (impossible) perfection. but! some of this stuff is going to make you crazy every day or every time you see them. and you’re not going to get used to it. and eventually, you are going to want to shove sharp things in your eyes. it may be annoying or a case of not fitting (again, see my previous ponder on fitting). but maybe they need to be free for someone who isn’t going to go mental over that little thing. (i’d share a personal example, but if the person ever read this and felt bad, i’d be mortified.) from the dumpee side of this, honestly, if all you see when you look at me is that silly little thing, i might be better off with someone else anyway.

    (note: if you dump me over a silly thing, i will likely say something like, “you’re dumping me over that?!?!” because it’s a silly thing. but that doesn’t mean, in the grand scheme, that i won’t eventually realise i’m better off without the partner who just saw me as that one silly thing.)

    in summary: not every reason is actually a good one. but even if you’re leaving me over a stupid one, even if i derisively note said stupid reason to friends for days to come, it doesn’t mean that you should have stuck around.

    before we talk about the dumping and the being dumped, i’d like to pause a moment to talk about other people. because i know only a few people who go through either side of the spectrum without involving other people. we go to our friends to say, “ack. i’m getting the paranoia. i think i’m going to get dumped.” or to say, “i’m thinking of dumping them. am i crazy?” and then we keep going to them for advice all through, until we finally go to them for comfort and/or to go out with once it’s done. i have just a few thoughts on other people, in case you want to know how i roll

    remember that friends and family who love you more than your partner will remember the negative things you said about your partner, even if you stay together. for this reason, i try to stick to just talking to my top friend or two, because they’re the kind of people who won’t let that cause drama or cause them to be rude later.

    involving other people is likely to lead to drama. drama sucks. i don’t want it, and if you want it, i don’t want you. sorry. another reason to keep it to just a tight friend or two who won’t be drama-prone. because sometimes a tiny issue can get turned into a huge one with the drama, and then you’ve thrown out a perfectly good something over nothing.

    whilst i’m a very introspective girl and very good at being honest with myself, the other benefit of my top couple non-drama-prone friends is that they are outside. they aren’t blinded by being too close to the situation (or not as close as i am). they aren’t blinded by the way my knees buckle when we kiss. their emotions are not so tied up. so, even if i want to think it all out myself, i think it’s a good bet to go to them, especially if they have a real handle on my relationship history, and tell them what i think. not only are they people with whom i can be honest, even if it makes me sound bad, but they will be honest with me. which means that they will listen, question, and then either support or tell me i’m being stupid.

    if you’re one of the other people, it’s a dicey situation. we all know that if you are honest about what you dislike about the partner, that can come back to bite you if the friend stays with said partner. i know i have held my tongue before, though i prefer not to. if you are one of my other people, there’s no need to constantly harangue me (but i know you won’t), but be honest. i think i’ve shown that i never hold it against you. and the person you’re offering criticisms of never finds out.

    no matter what they say, though, i have to remember that, in the end, it’s on me. i have to own the choice i make. i have to live with the consequences of staying or going. so they can advise, but it’s still up to me and my responsibility.

    and, finally…unless we are talking about an actual abuse situation where there is fear of bodily harm, try not to bring other people along for the breakup. you need a ride because you want to do it face-to-face? your ride needs to stay in the car or go into another shop. you realise it has to happen now and you want to call and break up that way, but you’re with a friend? go into another room or send them into the hallway or out to grab a snack. really need them there so that you have the courage to do it? you better make sure they’re going to keep their mouths shut and be compassionate toward all parties. but if they’re there to watch the show, to add some attitude, or because you’re doing a quick dumping before you head out for drinks with them…seriously, they can go wait at the bar.

    now, how to dump…i know some people think the only acceptable way is face-to-face. i totally understand, as i used to think this way myself. for these folks, that’s a sign of respect and of owning your actions and the hurt you’re causing. but i’m not one of those people anymore. dumping me via text or email or voicemail, via a friend or on the maury show, by throwing my things on the lawn or writing rude things on my car with lipstick? not cool. any breakup done with nastiness or destruction or done in a public place when you could have let me get the hurt privately isn’t cool. though i will allow for things like email if you’re overseas. and i used to allow for that if you just lived long distance before mobile phones made calls cheap. especially since the bulk of our relationship would have been in email and chats anyway, so that was just the way the relationship went. but even if you’re overseas, you can now use free online voice chat options to at least make it a call.

    because, in amberland, there are now two mainly acceptable ways to end a romantic relationship with me. the old face-to-face is fine. i do prefer it not happen in a public place, in case you make me cry. (and, yes, even if you’re very nice about it, i might cry. because i might still like you and it always hurts not to be liked back.) though, if you’re worried, i’ve proven to be pretty good at waiting until the dumper leaves to cry. as long as they don’t hang out for more than a few minutes. i might get a bit misty and choked sounding, but i probably won’t sob in front of you. honestly, there may be other hurt i feel you need to own, and you ought to be aware you’re going to hurt me. but you don’t need to own or manage my heartbreak. if we aren’t a good fit, however much it hurts me to learn that, you’re doing us both a favour (and doing a favour to whomever our better fits are) by ending things. if you weren’t mean about breaking up, the most i think you owe me is honesty. you can even just say, “i’m sorry, but i don’t feel like we’re a good fit.” i might want to know more, and if there are reasons beyond just not being a good fit it would be nice of you to calmly tell me, but that would be enough. especially now that i like me, because i’m not going to need to go home and search myself for flaws.

    if you feel like i need to know my damage and you can communicate it in a non-mean way, maybe you can send me a letter. but this sort of thing usually just comes off wrong and doesn’t help anyone. might even make you look like a jerk.

    the other acceptable way is by phone. yes, i’m serious. as the dumper, this means that, in case i go into an unreasonable “but why? but why?” spasm or get mean on you or start sobbing or doing something uncharacteristically sad like begging and pleading, you can say (though i may not hear it over my mania), “i’m going to hang up now. you take care.” and then you hang up and go on with life. i am not prone to those things, but just in case…

    as the dumpee, oh, i love the phone. because i don’t want you to see me cry. i’d rather process that pain privately. feel like i’ve kept some dignity. not let you see my makeup get messed up. it also means that your tempting hot body isn’t there, putting my brain into the mixed signal land of “want!” versus “ouch!” seriously, call me. now, if you are going to ring my mobile to dump me, there’s an extra something you need to do. you need to ask what i’m up to, because if i’m out or at work, not okay. you can just say you were thinking of me (true) and ask me to call you as soon as i am home and can talk. sure, that might make me suspicious. but when i ask what’s up, you’re totally okay to say we’ll talk later and that you need to go. yes, i’ll be tortured, but i’ll appreciate it later. you can even go so far as to say that we need to talk and, when i ask, to say, yeah, it might be unpleasant. but if i badger you into saying it right away, then it’s my fault for badgering. (okay, actually, if i am at home, in my car alone, or with one of my best friends, you’re probably good to just do it then.)

    for both dumper and dumpee, though i understand if you have some choice words when you’re leaving a cheat, an abuser, or someone who has actually treated you poorly, we’re all going to feel better about this if people try to keep it civil. you don’t have to pretend you want to stay friends. you don’t have to hold the dumpee or tell the dumper that this is fabulous. but nasty remarks, meanness, attempts at guilt, drama…that all does no good and just makes it uglier for everyone. as a special note to the dumpee, rarely does anything good come of you begging and pleading and guilting them into staying. if you have to do that to keep them, chances are you’re better off without. really.

    plus, if there is an actual hope of staying friends after (which can only happen if you both want it and can both behave), you aren’t going to want to smear the situation with ugly, are you? (that goes for both of you.)

    okay, so you’re broken up. just a few thoughts on post-breakup behaviour and then i’ll shut up for now.

    it is not cool to destroy their things that you have. it is cool to arrange a quick contact really soon to return things. it is cool to keep that contact super short and simple. you can even be wordless and just hand over the box or bag. really. if you can’t keep it civil, this is an okay time to send a friend. but make it the friend who will be civil and won’t use this as a chance to say nasty things, okay? and return their stuff in its current condition. no petty breaking, secretly dropping it in toilets, or whatever.

    it is not cool to make out extra hard with your new partner in public just to hurt them. if it’s been years and you see someone who hurt you and you want them to see you’re just fine, thanks…okay. but when it’s all fresh, just be breezy and normal. if you dumped them recently, they are already hurt. no need for more. if you got dumped, they will know what you’re doing and it will look sad. instead, just look hot and happy and normal.

    it is cool to turn the hurt into art, especially if it doesn’t come across as petty. for me, this means you can’t tell the song is about you. heh.

    it is cool to give the other person space. you don’t have to avoid hangouts, unless you can’t be nice. but you don’t have to wander over to say hullo or sit where you can stare at them the whole time.

    i’m sure i had more to say, but it’s a friday night. time for me to go and enjoy. because who knows how long it is until i break up with you or you dump me, right? ha!

  • where do lyrics come from?

    with history now briefly covered, and a few pondering posts to test out how i like pondering on here, it’s time to get back to music as a current topic. kind of.

    as many have learned, i’m not really planning to explain my lyrics to anyone. i can’t tell you the number of times jason has asked, as we work a song, “what’s this one about?” only to have me shrug and say, “what do you think it’s about? all that matters is that the music fits it.” there’s only one person i’d make exceptions for, and that’s because i know he won’t tell anyone at all and because he’s got every bit of my trust. and, you know, that’s probably not you. sorry.

    why won’t i tell you what the songs mean? well, there are a number of reasons. for one, not everyone who hears a song will have the luxury of reading or hearing an explanation from me. that song needs to stand on its own, without extra words. also, i can’t tell you the number of songs that were totally meaningful to me, that i made completely valid analyses of, that were then soured when i heard what the writer meant. okay, fine, to the writer that song is about something entirely different, but there’s no need to rob me of the emotional connection i had with the song for my own reasons. additionally, i don’t want people who might have influenced a song to either see it as an attack or as an ego builder. that’s not why i write. and, finally, as you’ll read, most come from too complex a place to really sum up.

    but i can tell you where lyrics come from. and, unlike when you learned where babies come from, i don’t care if you tell your little sister. in fact, please, do tell her.

    the lyrics come a few ways. most just sort of fall out of me and onto the paper, quickly. i feel really blessed that it works that way. every so often, something falls out in pieces. i try not to force it when it goes like that. try to just meditate on what’s at the root. the few times i’ve forced it, the lyrics have been shoddy and needed rewriting. so, better to get it right the first time.

    but at the root, no matter how they come out, is always a mental collage. and the collage isn’t built by effort or always around a clear theme. it’s a mix of memories, of story ideas, of possible futures and missed pasts, of smells and sights and emotions, of other people’s experiences, of individual words or phrases that feel good on my tongue and rolling across my brain. sometimes, there’s almost a physical sensation or two that comes along with it. it’s usually something of a chaotic mess, really.

    if the lyrics just fall out, the mess seems to settle into something i can look at and benefit from once i’m finished writing. until then, it’s almost like the whole mass of the thing is pushing the words out.

    if the lyrics come slowly, the mass starts settling as i regard it. i write what comes easily, and then i sort of let the whole thing shift a bit. i close my eyes and just watch it. sometimes i poke at it. i ask it, “what’s this piece doing here? it’s totally unlike the others.” and as pieces fall together, the words fall out of me.

    even in a situation where i could probably say, “this song is about this person / this event / this theme / this emotion,” there’s always something more going on. that thing has drifted through my heart and my mind and other bits of what’s inside of me have caught onto it. so that even if i told you and tried to explain, there’d still be some line or verse that wasn’t quite that thing. but, hopefully, that still fits.

    of course, a close friend recently noted that a lot of my songs seem to be written before their time. that they are all clearly about things that happened after i wrote them. and when i tried to protest, some pretty uncanny things were pointed out to me. but i think i’m going to chalk that up to the fact that time isn’t linear; we just see it that way through our limited brains. which means that i’ve got endless years of images to throw into those collages. so i don’t expect to understand word-by-word either. and maybe that’s the real reason i can’t explain myself. heh.

  • ponder: i don’t love you like i love him…

    i’ve been pondering love a lot lately, as i seem to have had some fundamental change of nature. among other things, this change includes feeling like i’m overflowing with love, like i have more compassion, like i need to say more sappy things to a few people. that, plus the fact a number of people in my life have been pondering love in their own ways and for their own reasons, has had my head full of thinking about the nature of love. so i thought i’d use that as a chance to keep the blog from getting too stale. plus, as those who’ve been around me a while know, when there seems to be a theme in my life during a particular time, i often feel like it’s useful to talk out loud about it. and that’s just what i’m going to do until i run out of words, for the moment, on the topic. right now, it looks like there are four strands to my thoughts here.

    to clarify, love here is all the kinds of love. not just romantic, in love sort of love. it’s also about love for friends, love for family, and general human compassion. try to keep that in mind as you read this long post, okay?

    strand one: the individual nature of each love. this is the strand that the title of the post is inspired by. what i’ve come to realise is that each love, whatever sort it might be, is unique. it has to be. because each instance involves different people.

    you see, the love i feel for one person has some of its roots and strength in the experiences we’ve had, the stories we’ve shared, and their particular traits. i may love another person equally, but because that love is based on a different set of experiences, stories, and traits, it’s a different love. my dad has always said he loves each of us kids equally, but for different reasons. i think that’s what he means.

    and i kind of think it’s a beautiful thing, for a few reasons. you see, it means i never have to worry if this love doesn’t feel like another did, because it probably oughtn’t. it means that each person for whom i feel any love gets their own unique love from me, and that i am also being given a unique gift when someone loves me. (this is particularly cool for erasing jealousy about the past or about other friends, because if they love me, it is a new thing and not the same love they give or have given already.) it means that i feel like i won’t run out of one particular love, because i only use each one for one person. and it means that if one love is betrayed, it doesn’t kill me on that level of love in general. just that one particular love.

    this also has some downsides and can lead to some emotional turmoil. but it’s love, so you expect that, right?

    strand two: love doesn’t mean trust. not to be a downer on the tail of what was a happier strand, but love and trust aren’t mutually inclusive. that i love you doesn’t mean i trust you, and vice versa. which, actually, i don’t think has to be seen as a downer…

    it’s awesome when i have people i both love and trust. to be honest, those are few and far between in my life. at the very least, the levels of love and trust i have for a person are not usually equal. making those few for whom i have loads of both extra precious. but knowing that i can feel one without the other and not feeling like i have to feel both is rather freeing.

    i used to fuss over this. how could i feel one and not so much the other? did it mean i was wrong in my assessment of how i felt? and on and on…but now that i’ve concluded it’s just a fact of life, i don’t stress. i’m mindful of each and don’t tend to go barrelling into behaviours (either of showing love or trust) just because i’ve got one of those feelings. and you probably oughtn’t take it personally if you aren’t one of the very few for whom i have loads of both. because each is, in its own right, a rather lovely gift.

    strand three: love ought to free you to be your genuine self. now, this may seem an odd thought on the heels of the previous strand. after all, this sounds like a trust-laden thing. but i think that love can’t be true if you are loving an image, if you’re loving the person someone is trying to project. in that case, you love the image and not the person. and, on the other side of that, i want to be loved for me. i want you to love me even knowing that i totally disagree with you on a topic, that we have different life goals, that i’m an indoor girl and you like the outdoors. that sort of thing. and if you can’t love me like that, it’s best we work instead on some sort of genial relationship or trust. and i’ll save my time and love for friends and family who do love me like that. and it’s okay. because i can look at my life and see how those people who see and love the person i truly am, especially the ones who know my quirks and don’t get any sort of pretence from me, have freed me to be true to myself. i was going to try to be true to me anyway, as i’m the only person guaranteed to stick by me through life. but letting them know and love real me freed me to love real me more. and then freed me to recognise and let go of self-misconceptions. and now i’m very-amber, and i dig her.

    strand four: to feel love doesn’t mean you’re obligated to do anything about it. to be clear, i think that you can’t do nothing and expect love to survive. so you ought to find at least small ways to show and nurture any love you’re feeling that you want to keep feeling. but…

    i keep running across people who seem to feel like their love of another person brings with it an obligation to act. and the thing about love is that it can be pretty blind and stupid. part of why you can love someone and not trust them. your heart, both in non-romantic and romantic senses, can suddenly throw itself at someone. i find that’s usually how love of any sort happens with me. one day i suddenly realise that, oh, i love this person in this way. sometimes i feel it growing, like my heart is creeping that way instead of throwing itself. and sometimes it’s literally instantaneous. and more than once, it’s been thrown at a person that was just a bad idea. they were a lousy friend, they were a cheating love, they were falsely acting in order to drum up compassion. and my stupid heart didn’t really notice. once or twice, my heart has forgotten i was already in a relationship and thrown itself. and, fortunately, i chose not to follow (because we may not be able to choose where it throws itself, but we can choose how we react to that) and, instead, used that as a wakeup call that maybe i needed to tend to the love in the current relationship. (or honourably end the relationship because this was a chance to realise it wasn’t the good answer long-term. but i’ve rarely had a chance to do that before the other person has butchered it up…good thing, or i might not have so many songs!)

    so, whilst love is a great motivator for acts of kindness and compassion, it is not an obligation. i love you, but it doesn’t mean i have to do for you. i love you, but it doesn’t mean i have to stay with you. i have love for you, my fellow human, and compassion for your situation, but it doesn’t mean i’m obligated to give.

    which means two things. first, that i can stop treating love as an obligation and treat it as something lovelier than that. second, that those things i do for you out of love are by choice, because i want to. because i want to feed the love, the relationship (whatever it may be). and it means that everything you do that i can recognise as a way of showing your love is not taken for granted. because i’m hoping love is motivation, not an obligation for you as well.

    and if you’ve read through this whole post, it has either been out of love of me or because you’re a stalker. either way, it’s time for me to go put some sappiness in a chat window and an inbox and such. all this love talk has reminded me that those i love most are the best people on earth. yay!

  • who put that hope in here?!?!

    like many people i know, i use art as a way to work through intense emotions. and, like many of them, a lot of those emotions are not pleasant ones. one well of emotion and imagery for a lot of my songs is all the rubbish i’ve been through thus far. so, you know, safe to assume that the songs are generally not happy songs.

    lately, there’s been a lot not going awesomely in my life. in most every area. but, somehow, i recently had a very beautiful moment where i realised that i am at peace with my past. in some cases, it’s a general peace, and in others more specific, as i see how things i have been through that were not pleasant have led to good now.

    today, with no external reason or obvious improvement in my life, i have actually been feeling very calm and hopeful. odd, but cool. and perhaps that’s why i got a random urge to flip through all the songs i’ve written the last two and a half years or so and see which of them had hope.

    see, i think that even music that’s not happy can give you hope. i know that the songs that made me most sure i wasn’t alone and was going to make it through dark periods in my past had no hope in them. but just knowing someone else had felt as i was feeling and was still around and was turning it into good music? that gave me hope. but that’s not the hope i was looking for here. i wondered if i could give or was giving hope of another sort in those lyrics.

    at this moment, i have lyrics for 108 songs finished, and am one verse shy of finishing number 109. i can be a bit prolific sometimes. it’s been an artistically dense two and a half years…of those, i found messages of hope in 53 songs.

    do you need a moment to pause, process, pick your jaw up off the floor? because i did. even songs we’ve been playing and actively working on all this time that i didn’t think of as having hope.

    but as i flipped through, i saw bits of hope, here and there. sometimes, the whole song was encouraging to me. sometimes, it started poorly but ended well. sometimes, it’s just a line in there. some of the hope is pretty straight-forward hope, like songs where i say i know i can make it or i know the relationship will make it. some of the hope is more sideways, like songs where i’m encouraging someone not to give up or i’m realising that, yeah, i want you and i can have you. really, i count anything where, if you’re paying attention, you see it’s not all just wanting and lacking and broken.

    because sometimes hope is just that there is something good in all the mess. at least to me.

    so when you’re having a listen or singing along, feel free to take comfort in the bits that aren’t hopeful, in knowing someone else made it through all sorts of unpleasantness (lots of someones, really, as it’s not all always about me). but be sure to know there’s hope in there. and it’s okay to hope.